How did you get into debt?
Student loans, mortgage, small amount in credit cards
How does your economic reality effect your art?
Before I was hired as a professor my debt paralyzed me artistically. It was difficult to prioritize my artistic practice because I felt the need to work a regular (non-art-related) job as much as possible to try to make my loan payments. I didn't have a studio where I lived and didn't feel I could afford to rent one. The work I made was stunted, minor and tentative. It was a lonely and unproductive time. It took my about five years after grad school to feel desperate and depressed enough to permit myself to rent a small studio with a dirt floor. As sad a space as that was, it sort of saved my life and brought me back to honoring my skills, talent and education. I now rent a decent studio with subsidized rent in an art center I helped bring into being. Crafting the creative community around me is nearly as important as the work I do alone in my studio. Being reasonable compensated as a professor has meant that I can take great risks with my art that I might not be able to pursue if I were primarily concerned with sales or keeping a gallery happy.
Would your work look different if you weren't in debt?:
Well if that magical removal of my debt also magically removed my education then yes, of course, my work would look different, it would look worse, possibly even terrible. If I were simply able to remove the debt and keep the education, then I'm not sure. I feel like I'm making the work I want to make, growing and evolving naturally. Then again, if I weren't making massive student loan payments every month I'd travel more and that would probably have an impact on my work. I might devote more resources to my materials and the presentation of my work (documenting, framing, promotion etc).